This year, March 8th marks the 100th anniversary of the International Women's Day. In my homeland, Iran, women have continued to stand up to tyranny, rejecting discrimination and dictatorship with a resounding NO.
Women were in the forefront of the uprising in the summer of 2009, when the Iranian youth called for unseating the misogynous clerics and establishment of democracy in Iran. It was no coincidence; the symbol of the uprising was a young girl, named Neda, who died with open eyes while in search of freedom, as the whole world was watching.
Those demonstrations have continued despite rape, torture, and public hangings. On February 14, women were again in the forefront of demonstrations against the Iranian regime, which was repeated on 20 February.
Iranian women have every reason to want change as gender apartheid has become the official policy of the theocracy since 1979. Restrictions on every aspect of women's lives are officially enshrined in the regime's laws. The Iranian regime is firmly rooted in the principle of Velayat-e Faqih (absolute clerical rule). The clerical regime's constitution intervenes in and controls both the public and private spheres of women's lives. It is noteworthy that the notion of Velayat-e Faqih is not an Islamic one but an invention of Khomeini to usurp the Iranian people's popular sovereignty.
Iranian women have never submitted to the ruling theocracy. At the forefront of this struggle, women in the main opposition Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK/PMOI) have been leading the movement for decades. As the antithesis to the medieval theocracy in Iran, the pioneering women in the MEK have occupied the highest positions in the liberation movement. More than 1,000 women currently reside in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, as the symbols of this movement.
Women in Ashraf, some of whom have spent years under the most severe physical and psychological forms of torture in the Iranian regime's prisons, have been determined to fight all kinds of discrimination and injustices perpetrated by the fundamentalists ruling their homeland.
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance spoke in Paris in honor of this day saying:
This year, we are approaching International Women's Day at a time when women in the Middle East have sacrificed a great deal in their struggle against dictatorship, taking the campaign to attain freedom and equality to its zenith.
The blossoming of these movements revives the most vital, yet forgotten, desire of our societies: Women's equality, human rights, freedom and democracy. The experience of Iran under the fundamentalists' rule has shown that women are the main victims of suppression. Thus, women have developed an enormous energy to struggle, making them the force for change.
Accordingly, we are saying that among the many factors which have made the dawn of freedom in Iran inevitable, the determining factor is women's penetrating capacity for change. Recognition of this fact is possible by a simple glance at the history of the struggle of Iranian women against two dictatorships. In the past three decades, the Iranian society has relied on women's unremitting struggle to persevere against religious fascism.
General James Jones, National Security Advisor to President Barak Obama until October 2010 said, "Madam Rajavi, it is time for those of us from the United States who have come to know you and your colleagues, and your goals, to do what is required, to recognize the legitimacy of your movements, and your ideals. I intend to work towards that goal personally. I agree with you, Madam Rajavi; that it is now America's turn."
Likewise, Governor Howard Dean, former chair of Democratic National Committee told a conference in February, "We have to live up to the high moral ground which is in the constitution of the United States and in the declaration of independence, and that means standing up for freedom and democracy, even when it may not be in our geopolitical interest. And that is why we must change our position on the MEK and stop calling them a terrorist organization. They are not a terrorist organization, they have their own bill of rights, which is an extraordinary thing under the leadership of Madame Rajavi, and we appreciate what she has done greatly. Let me quote from Madame's Ten-Point Plan for the future of Iran: 'From our point of view, the ballot box is the only criterion for legitimacy. We want a plural system, freedom for parties and assembly. We will commit and support the abolition of the death penalty. We will establish the separation of church and state.'
Indeed, women will lead the way to bring freedom and democracy to Iran and other Middle Eastern countries since they have been the prime victims of dictatorship, tyranny, and Islamic fundamentalism.